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Review: Twentyone (Side Project Theatre)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: twentyone (Side Project Theatre)   
  
twentyone

Written by Brett Neveu  
Directed by Brant Russell
Side Project Theatre, 1439 N. Jarvis (map)
thru Dec 13  |  tickets: $20   |  more info

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A spring break to Cancun is lots of talk, not much discovery

     

Review: twentyone (Side Project Theatre)

  

Side Project Theatre presents

  

twentyone

Review by Keith Ecker 

Remember what you were like when you were 21? For those whose memories fail them, let me fill you in. You were annoying, horny, self-involved and probably drunk. You were loud, pointlessly crass, bratty and manipulative. You also looked pretty good with your shirt off. Not only does this encapsulate your 21-year-old self, but it also accurately captures the grating personalities of the characters in Side Project Theatre‘s twentyone.

The play uses a college bro trip to Mexico as its backdrop for what is meant to be an existential Spring Break. In six scenes, we spend far too much time with a group of young men and women, the type many of us probably take great pains to avoid. These are people who listen to Katie Perry and find it amusing to taunt homeless people they meet on the streets of Cancun. Sure, you can blame their outrageous antics on their youth, but you know they’ll probably just grow up to become old assholes.

The central character is the incredibly unlikable David (Japhet Balaban). David likes to party, but he likes to talk even more. He talks and talks and talks throughout the entire play, waxing on and on about his thoughts on everything from what to name the sun to what would motivate a girl to have a threeway. He has an air of smugness about him as if his prattling is tantamount to deep philosophical contemplation.

While in Mexico, David and his two dumb guy friends meet a couple college co-eds. Nicole (Gillian Butcher) is the good girl, the one who daintily laughs at David’s insipid attempts at humor. Her friend Jodi (Annie Munch) has a sultry Siren-like quality. But she’s a femme fatale, the kind of girl that likes to use her sexual wiles as a means of control.

Review: twentyone (Side Project Theatre)

I can only hope that playwright Brett Neveu intended for all of his characters to be indescribably irritating. And I can only hope that director Brant Russell consulted Neveu to ensure his vision of five loudmouth brats in Mexico would be preserved. If this is the case, if the plan was to make us want to throw a shoe at each individual’s head and tell them to shut up, then mission accomplished. I am giving Neveu and Russell the benefit of the doubt, which is why this production is receiving a not unfavorable review.

That said, nothing interesting happens. There are no discernable thematic ideas to deconstruct. There are no overarching concepts that tie the piece together. David is inquisitive and searching for meaning. Jodi is his foil, doing things because she feels like it. But that’s about as deep as we delve into this idea of Spring Break morality. We are left with the notion that some people have to run through a litany of questions before arriving at a moral conclusion, while others seem to have an express route linking their impulses to their actions.

The cast artfully embodies these overly emotional Spring Breakers, but Butcher and Munch standout from the pack. Their roles require a bit more restraint and complexity than their male counterparts, and each actress commits fully, even when the dialog occasionally veers toward teen drama territory.


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